Horsemeat: Lochhead airs anger at threat to Scottish meat industry

Scottish rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead aired the frustration and anger at the possible threat posed by the horsemeat scandal to the Scottish meat industry.

According to Lochhead, who delivered the keynote speech at last weekend’s Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) annual conference, the horsemeat scandal could have added to the strain posed by poor weather conditions, rising input costs and stock competition.

He told attendees at the meeting: “I share your frustration and anger that the high standards you operate to were in danger of being undermined by fraudulent activity elsewhere in the supply chain. Lochhead explained that Scottish meat customers therefore needed to be reassured that the brand could be trusted.

Silver lining

However, every cloud has a silver lining, and Lochhead pointed out that the scandal had rekindled consumer interest in where their food comes from. “This is good news for premium red meat brands,” he said, adding: “There is clear evidence that consumers want provenance and that the Scotch brand, which is associated with traceability and quality, provides this.”

Such standards were highlighted to be the reason why retailers and consumers were placing their trust in the Scotch label, when buying meat.

Shorter supply chains

In part, lengthy supply chains have been blamed for the horsemeat issue and Lochhead pointed out that Scotland did not have this issue to contend with. “We don’t have the complex, sometimes murky, web of supply that stretches across Europe,” he said. “That trust can be further cemented by taking steps to [further] shorten the supply chain.”

But the way in which Scotland runs its meat supply chain was not the only example of traceability success Lochhead drew on. He said the establishment of the quality assurance scheme SQBLA 25 years ago, which is now under Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) control, should be thanked for the industry’s success.

He said: “We now have farms, feed suppliers, auction marts, livestock hauliers and processing plants with traceability systems and assurance standards that underpin consumer trust and the reputation behind the Scotch label.”

Build on the positives

Lochhead added that a further £1m of funding for QMS to support the marketing of Scottish brands and strengthen the visibility of the label would help to extent the reach of Scotch meat.

He said part of the funding had already been put to good use and had developed a new licensing scheme for secondary processors, manufacturers and others in the supply chain that operate beyond the abattoir gate. He added: “This will enable the secondary processing sector to utilise the benefits of carrying the Scotch label on their meat products and bring more customers to your door.”

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